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Austrian politician seeks to revoke Schwarzenegger’s citizenship

William J. Kole Associated Press

VIENNA, Austria – California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should be stripped of citizenship in his native Austria for approving the execution of a convicted killer, a leading Austrian politician said Saturday.

The demand, by a top official from the environmentalist Green Party, had little chance for success, but it underscores how Schwarzenegger has lost popularity in his homeland over his support for the death penalty. Most Austrians – and many other Europeans – abhor capital punishment as cruel and inhumane.

Peter Pilz said Schwarzenegger broke the law in Austria – where capital punishment is illegal – and is no longer worthy of citizenship because he allowed Donald Beardslee’s execution to go ahead last week.

“Schwarzenegger is possibly the most prominent Austrian abroad, and he shapes the picture of Austria,” Pilz said. “I don’t want that picture shaped by someone who commits state murder. That does not correspond to the political culture of this country.”

Pilz told Austrian media he sent the Interior Ministry a letter formally requesting that the government begin the process of terminating Schwarzenegger’s citizenship.

Calls to the Interior Ministry seeking comment went unanswered Saturday.

It appeared unlikely that the Greens, a leftist opposition party which holds just a handful of seats in parliament, would persuade Austria’s conservative government to revoke Schwarzenegger’s citizenship.

Rarely, if ever, has Austria taken the extraordinary step of stripping someone of citizenship. Not even Kurt Waldheim, the former Austrian president and U.N. secretary-general linked to Nazi war crimes, had his citizenship revoked.

Pilz insists there are sufficient legal grounds to strip Schwarzenegger of his citizenship: specifically, a clause in Austria’s nationality law stipulating that citizenship can be revoked if an Austrian “in the service of another country substantially damages the interests or reputation of the republic by his or her behavior.”

“Capital punishment is unacceptable in Austria and in Europe, and no Austrian citizen may take part in it or arrange it,” he said.

Beardslee, 61, convicted of killing two women over a drug deal almost a quarter-century ago, became the first inmate put to death by California in three years when he was given a lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison on Wednesday.

Schwarzenegger was born in 1947 in the village of Thal just outside Graz, where he began his bodybuilding career. He immigrated to the United States in 1968 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1984, but has retained his Austrian citizenship.

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